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Are there better abdominal exercises than crunches?

Not so much better but different. It’s easy to get tired of the same old thing all the time. So for a variety, try hanging leg raises, standing medicine ball/cable rotations, planks and side planks. 
Many people are always looking for that best ab exercise to get defined.  Simple there is no best exercise for your abdominals.  First off if you want to see your abs it is all about nutrition and calorie burn.  I always tell my clients to try different ab rountines so your body doesn't adapt to any routine you do.  Remember it is not many reps you do, how much weight you lift but how you do your exercise for the benefits.  Try to consult your fitness professional if you need new ideas for your ab routine.

Absolutely! In my opinion, traditional crunches are one of the worst abdominal exercises. A great majority of people perform crunches religiously in the attempt to sculpt a lean and strong core, but to no avail. Squats are a better abdominal exercise than crunches, truthfully! In order to properly perform the squat exercise, you need to have your entire core engaged. If you are squatting with a 'soft' core then you aren't squatting correctly. Try for yourself, perform a few sets of crunches and a few sets of front squats. After which exercise do your abs feel more worked?

I believe that the best abdominal exercises are the ones where core stabilization is inherent in the exercise. TRX suspension trainers and kettlebells are great tools that incorporate core work into almost every exercise.

Two of my favorite TRX exercises are the TRX punch and the body saw. The punch is an anti-rotation based exercise where your core muscles a fiercely engaged to prevent your body from rotating. This mimics the responsibilities of the core during many track and field events. The body saw is a very small but brutally difficult exercise in which your must stay rock solid as you slowly sea-saw forward and backward. Some other great exercises on the TRX are knee tucks and pikes from the push-up position as well as static-based core exercises such as prone and side planks.

Kettlebells are renown for producing rock solid core muscles. This is because in order to execute many kettlebell exercises properly, you need to have your core engaged at all times. Some great core exercises with kettlebells are the windmill, halo's & ribbons, and of course the mother of all exercises, the get up. These exercises should be performed slow and controlled with an emphasis on keeping the core as tightly engaged as you can.

If you don’t have access to TRX or kettlebells, some of these exercises can still be performed by substituting swissballs and dumbbells respectively. If you are choosing the right exercises, there won't be a need to dedicate 30 minutes at the end of each workout for 'abs'. Also, remember that core pertains to your entire trunk, so make sure you are utilizing your oblique’s, transverse abs, erector spinae etc. Performing the exercises listed above will ensure that your entire core is being thoroughly worked!

There are several other exercises that can help strengthen your abdominals besides the crunch including planks, bridges, quadruped opposite arm/opposite leg raises (bird dog), cable lifts, cable chops and cable rotations, and tube walking. Effectively targeting your core (abdominals, hips, low back) requires more than simply performing crunches. Your core is made up of several muscles that help to stabilize your pelvis and spine. A comprehensive core exercise program will target all of these muscles and help you feel better (by reducing low back pain) and look better. With that said, there is nothing wrong with performing crunches as long as they are performed correctly and in moderation. The most effective core program targets all the muscles around your hips, butt, abdominals, and low back.

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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.